When Lieutenant-General, the Honorable Roméo Dallaire virtually addressed the graduates at Brock’s Fall Convocation Friday, Oct. 16, he came with a clear directive.
The celebrated international human rights advocate, who received an honorary doctorate from the University, wanted his audience of young learners to understand the power in their hands.
“You are a particularly significant generation, because you are fully engaged in the communications revolution of our time,” he told the roughly 1,000 new graduates he hoped to embolden. “You are already global. You are the generation without borders.”
The nature of the address, delivered as Brock’s 108th Convocation ceremony went online due to public health restrictions, was certainly fitting.
With the ability to “coalesce massively within minutes,” young Canadians can influence the “flow of thinking” in the world, and have a significant impact on and apply pressure to critical causes, said Dallaire, a respected author, government and United Nations advisor, and former Canadian senator.
“You have power that we never, ever could have,” he said in reference to his own generation. “The question is, are you ready to use it?”
The founder of the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security spoke passionately about the impact this generation can have on climate change, Canadian politics, the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevention of global conflicts.
He urged graduates to harness that ability and become “engaged in this revolution.”
“Use the magnificence of your youth to take risks, to advance and to push the envelope,” he said.
In addition to Dallaire’s keynote address, the virtual Convocation also included the installation of University Chancellor Hilary Pearson, who succeeded Shirley Cheechoo to become Brock’s ninth Chancellor.
A recognized leader in Canadian philanthropy and community engagement, Pearson said she was drawn to Brock’s local commitment and global outreach, clearly outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan.
“I read about your mission and your values,” she said, “and I reflected on the four priorities that are so well stated in the plan: offering a transformational university experience, building research capacity, enhancing the life and vitality of the region, and fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.”
“The words that rang through this statement resonated with me,” said Pearson, who has served in senior policy roles in the federal government and as President of Philanthropic Foundations Canada for 18 years, working closely with many of the country’s largest private charitable foundations. “This is not a University that sits remotely in its ivory tower, even if it is indeed on a hill. It is actively engaged with the world.”
While the University’s mission played a significant role in bringing the new Chancellor on board, it was word of the cultural fabric of the Brock community that Pearson found most convincing.
“My conversation with Chancellor Cheechoo persuaded me that there was an opportunity to work with committed people at Brock,” Pearson said. “I am truly inspired by her example of integrity, courage and belief in inclusivity and reconciliation.
“I admire her commitment to cultural creativity and individual expression. As an ally, I hope to support and continue the work that she began at Brock to honour Indigenous culture and beliefs, and to offer Indigenous students the full opportunity to participate and contribute to the University community.”
Pearson, who in 2018 was named a Member of the Order of Canada, also took the opportunity to offer words of inspiration to the Class of 2020.
“You are going out into a world that is being challenged by huge events: the pandemic and its consequences and the search for sustainable and equitable growth in the face of climate change and other global disruptions,” she said.
“There is opportunity here for you. Brock has given you skills, experiences and values that will equip you well to meet what is out there. With creativity, entrepreneurial ambition and confidence, you are the talent that Canada and the world need to work through the challenges of the coming decades.”
The virtual celebration, which remains available online, also recognized several award winners, including Distinguished Teaching Award recipient Kai-Yu Wang, Professor and Chair of the Marketing, International Business and Strategy department at the Goodman School of Business; Distinguished Research and Creative Activity Award recipient Angela Evans, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Faculty of Social Sciences; Spirit of Brock medalists Christopher Yendt (Bachelor of Education in Adult Education) and Carly Magnacca (Master of Arts in Applied Disability Studies); and Governor General Silver Medal recipients Kraig Helmeczi (Bachelor of Science in Physics) and Collin Tower (Bachelor of Science in Physics).